Proof that eating cheaply and enjoying good food is totally possible, Samurai Hawthorn has a loyal following thanks to its no fuss, fresh and tasty, take on Japanese favourites.
Location: 804 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn, VIC 3122 Ph: (03) 9819 4858
At a time when you can regularly pay between $3.50 and $4.20 for a simple Sushi Hand Roll at a well-known chain, thank goodness for places like Hawthorn’s Samurai.
This tiny Japanese restaurant on ever-bustling Hawthorn end of Glenferrie Road is a real find. Nestled next to the dessert-centric Levain Doughnuts, it’s extremely popular. Especially with students and those who are happy to scour an area for a decent, cheap feed.
And yes, Eatability is happy to be counted amongst those diners.
But be warned! With word-of-mouth reviews strong for this eatery, you’ll probably have to queue for your meal.
Dinky. But charming.
With bone-grey walls, feature wooden panelling in pale wood and clever lighting, Samurai Hawthorn is an elegant optical illusion. The restaurant is tiny – in terms of its seating – but high ceilings and smart interior design make it surprisingly light and airy. Overall, it’s simple, but highly functional, with a striking logo behind the discreet service counter one of the few pieces of decor.
Customers happily pack the tables against the wall and in the middle of the wee room, as well as perching at the counter along the front window and at a couple of tables out on the busy pavement.
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The vibe is smart efficiency. You feel that the owners run a tight ship and have streamlined everything to allow them to serve their patrons with speed and economy.
To aid with this, most tables have an iPad attached, allowing diners to place their orders directly to the kitchen.
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Fresh and simple, but really well-executed. And genuinely budget-friendly.
It’s also quite surprising the range of items on the menu.
Why not start with some Sushi? The Spider Roll (8pcs $10) featuring Soft Shell Crab, Cucumber, Lettuce & Mayo is always a winner. Alternatively, you can dive straight in with one of the equally good value Sushi Set menus. Continuing onto the Entrees, the Gyoza (4 pcs $4.70) are fat with juicy seasoned Pork and the Agedashi Tofu ($4.20) is fragrant and delicate.
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As we have a movie to get to at the nearby Lido Cinema, we opt for a couple of Bento Boxes. At Samurai Hawthorn, these are pleasingly substantial.
The Salmon Teriyaki Bento is a meal of many delicious parts. To one side, there’s salty, crisp Edamame and lush slabs of Salmon Sashimi. To the other, there’s a crunchy Tempura Prawn, a Gyoza, a softly yielding Octopus Ball and a cube of Egg. Plus a bright, refreshing Seaweed Salad.
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As for the main event, there’s a good-sized portion of sticky rice topped with 2 perfectly cooked fillets of Teriyaki marinated Salmon. Finally, there’s even a palate-cleansing fruit selection.
Eatability’s dining companion is ‘starving’, but struggles to eat it all – due to its generosity.
The other Bento that we sample is the Crumbed Fried Chicken.
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Interestingly, there’s no Fruit with this Bento. Instead, the Kewpie-Dressed Crumbed Fried Chicken sits in its own section.
That Crumbed Chicken has a fabulously crunchy exterior, but a soft, succulent centre.
Again, it’s too much for this diner to totally put away and a spoon or 2 of Rice remains.
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As soon as you take your place at Samurai Hawthorn, one of the slick staff members bring over glasses and a flask of complimentary Green Tea.
It’s a lovely touch and most patrons are happy to stick with that.
Others beverages include Soft Drinks and a range of Milkshakes including a Green Tea flavour.
Samurai Hawthorn is unlicensed.
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We love Samurai Hawthorn, and we’re not the only ones.
It might not be the biggest or most famous Japanese restaurant in Melbourne, but for fresh food, speedy service and superb value for money, it’s hard to beat.